As the cool crisp smells and gorgeous colours descend upon us as October — Canadian Home Builders’ Association’s official renovation month — unfolds, thoughts turn to creating cosy interior cocoons. But many experts agree that fall is actually one of the best times to focus on that special outdoor redo.
“I encourage people to do outdoor renovations in the fall because of dollar saving. If you leave the landscaping design until spring, then you are in competition with every person that wants a spring makeover,” says landscaping expert, author and HGTV Canada’s Home to Win host, Carson Arthur.
“Fall is when contractors are winding down projects, have more availability and are more likely to negotiate a hearty deal,” he adds.
Last fall, in late September, Arthur transformed the outdoor space of an inner-city Bridgeland duplex with some beautiful features that considerably ramped up the privacy quotient.
The owners, Phil Stiles and Heather Dybvig, had purchased the 2,000-square-foot, three-storey home in 2016 when Heather was pregnant with the couple’s first child.
“It’s a really special property on the border of Bridgeland and Renfrew, with great views of downtown and the Bow River. It’s an awesome neighbourhood, super close to downtown and there are tons of kids,” says Heather, an urban planner, soon to be spa owner, who is on maternity leave with her second child.
The duplex home is carved into the upward slope of a hill with the front of the home facing uphill and north and the backyard extending to the south on the downhill slope.
“It’s kind of cool because the yard is carved into the slope and also extends over the top of the double rear attached garage,” explains Heather.
But it is a scenario that has caused some interesting landscaping challenges, in addition to some privacy issues. On a street full of three-storey duplex-style homes, the neighbours were able to get a bird’s eye view of the backyard. Shade was also a big priority.
So when Heather and Phil heard about a renovation challenge sponsored by MicroPro Sienna in the spring of 2018, they didn’t hesitate to enter. A few weeks later, they found out that they were the grand prize winners, and could look forward to a backyard reno by celebrity Carson Arthur.
The couple had already added a swim spa — they had to crane it in — and some seating and grass turf — with drainage issues over the garage, sod and trees were an impossibility, so Arthur was faced with the challenge of how to beautify the space, add some shade, along with plenty of privacy.
“As homes get larger and lots get smaller, we are finding that Canadians are really struggling with creating that backyard oasis and with privacy issues,” says Arthur.
“In this particular home, you walked out and there was an 18-foot sport pool and then this big expansive vista, but as soon as you got half way out into the yard, you realized that everyone can see in, because all of these large homes are stacked multi-level,” he says.
It was a scenario that required some problem solving imagination.
“People often get this wrong, they think that if they put up a six-foot fence on the property line, they will have privacy, but if you are 60 or 80 feet away and your neighbour is above, looking down on you, that’s not going to work,” says Arthur.
“Grab a chair and sit in your yard or on your deck; get to know the space and look at where you want the privacy. Then add a screen or a plant or a panel close to where you want the privacy,” he explains.
The goal in the Bridgeland home was to create a visual distraction, one that would still allow the owners to take advantage of the night sky views, and the stars when they were sitting in the hot tub.
“So covering it up wasn’t really an option,” he says.
Instead he designed a pergola. “It’s a bit of a visual trick but it adds lots of privacy. The eye still sees everything, but it is drawn to the wood, the details of the structure and when you add more lines and layers, it gives more to focus on.”
Crafted from MicroPro Sienna wood, the structure is designed to withstand Calgary’s harsh and fluctuating climate, as well as high winds.
Ribbons of cream-hued fabric weave through the overhead lattice beams of the pergola, layering in elements of elegance, texture, movement and adding to the privacy and sun shade factors.
The pergola’s architectural elements blend with the home’s contemporary styling and Arthur designed it with a slight tilt to give added interest and greater geometric layering.
For the Dybvig-Stiles, family the addition of the pergola has been life-changing.
“We love it. This is now definitely our forever home. We have this small yard, with two kids and a dog, who are outside all of the time, so we want to make it as awesome as possible,” says Heather.
The Owners: Heather Dybvig and Phil Stiles
The Expert: HGTV Canada’s Home to Win host and landscape and gardening guru, Carson Arthur
The Project: Create greater privacy and shade in a small, inner-city backyard with outstanding views, surrounded by multi-level homes that could look down into the space.
The Design: A custom designed pergola woven with ribbons of cream-hued fabric for added sun shade and privacy.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019